Protecting an acrylic painting on a guitar

Reader Question: I have painted a guitar with acrylic paints and want to protect it. I have tried using hairspray to coat it so that it wouldn't smudge but it ate away at the paint a bit. Will the varnish do the same thing or smudge it or will it be okay?

If you painted your guitar with acrylics without first prepping the surface (by sanding and priming it), then the acrylics will always be in danger of peeling off, and even varnish isn't guaranteed to prevent this. You can certainly try though!

Rather than use a brush-on varnish, you should try spraying the painted area with a spray varnish from an art supply store, such as Lascaux UV Protect, which is an archival spray designed to protect many art media, including acrylics. You could also use Krylon Kamar Varnish or Golden Archival Spray Varnish.

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All of these spray varnishes are designed to protect acrylic paintings, so they may increase the chances of the acrylic paint sticking to your guitar... but it's not guaranteed, if the surface of the guitar wasn't prepped before painting.

In general, the best process for painting a guitar depends on whether your guitar had an enamel or lacquer finish before you painted it with acrylics. If you're unsure, you can contact the manufacturer of your guitar. They can give you advice on what kind of paints to use on your guitar, as well as how to seal it.

In a nutshell: if your guitar has a lacquer finish, then lacquer paint is the best option. If your guitar has an enamel finish, then enamel paint is ideal. There are two kinds of enamel paints: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based enamels can take a long time to dry, so water-based enamel is recommended. You can usually get these kinds of paints from a hardware / DIY store.

To paint details, you could also try using an oil-based paint marker, which you can get from any art supply store.

Hope that helps and best of luck with it!

Check out my guide to Painting with Acrylics